Chainpur Bungalow

In a far away place in the state of Jharkhand, India, stands the grand old, Chainpur Bungalow, by River Koel. It’s not just a house but a sacred entity – proud, resilient, dignified and unbent, reverberating with forgotten old songs, chants, conversations and emotions of long gone residents. Vibrating with some ancient energy, which only exists in holy places, it might appear mystical place to many. For me, it is home!

According to my father Patait Baldeo Narain Singh (the owner), this house was constructed under Raja Bhagwat Dayal Singh, my great-great-grandfather. It is many, many years older than my grandma (Rajmata Prafulla Manjari Devi), who is more than 100 years of age. Our family belongs to an illustrious Royal family, Raj Chainpur Estate, and the house is certainly a part of history and architecture of the region.

Despite all later additions, original architectural elements of an English Bungalow, are intact in the house. The Bungalow style homes originated in the Indian subcontinent, having design elements of long verandahs on each side, low roofs, chimneys, fireplaces, eaves, shuttered windows and rooms flowing into each other for easy accessibility and comfort. The rooms opening into adjacent rooms as well as innumerable doors and windows still confuses many, who often get lost while finding their ways to bathrooms or verandahs. Earlier there were no boundaries around the house and the gurgling river could be seen from the backside but security issues led to making of boundaries. There was a tennis court, many outhouses, servant quarters and a thick forest surrounded it. Much has changed, some things still remain! The house is history in itself and I feel so proud to be a part of that history.

The real beauty and magic of the house lies in the fact that it has always been all inclusive. It has belonged to everyone, including visitors, guests, tenants, staff, house helps, who proudly got associated with it. Whoever stayed in the house, felt at home. Everyone has a story to tell in the backdrop of the house! Some scary ones too, mind you! For me, it has always been magical to see the house swelling and accommodating huge family gatherings in one big embrace.

I am sure my ancestors and descendants have their own interpretations and memories of the house. My father in his short story ‘Kadamb ki Atmakatha’ has alluded to the house, in his own way. But for me it always appears to be a living person – a deeply caring wise man – who makes you feel deeply at peace…at home.

And whenever I visualize the house, these images flash, overlap and make me nostalgic –

  • a meditative old lady in white saree
  • a lady knitting colorful sweaters

  • a man intently listening to the radio

  • an old lady feeding a bunch of kids

  • a girl teaching kids

  • a girl reading a book in a secret spot

  • a girl dancing on popular Bollywood number

  • a mischievous boy running around

  • elders cracking jokes and discussing in the verandah

  • boys playing cricket

  • kids running after the school bus

  • girls munching guavas and planning theatrical shows

  • everyone joining for evening prayers

  • ladies chatting and catching up

  • group visitations to ancestral village and car races

  • cold wars and disagreements

  • Cooks announcing meals

  • kids laughing and running around the house

  • emotional outbursts, disappointment and anger

  • illnesses and tears

  • crazy-sweet pets

  • chats on guava trees

  • winter evenings filled with made up stories

  • affectionate staff members

  • modeling around in new dresses

  • getting ready for marriage functions

  • teasing about teen crushes…

  • religious discourses and discussions in family gatherings

  • joyous evenings while playing games

  • midsummer nap in the comfortable hall room during family gatherings

  • puja ceremonies

…many, many more…images, feelings and emotions….

All long gone, never to return! Today, Chainpur Bungalow stands alone, yearning for the familiar sights and conversations of all those who once resided here. But it is also happy about the future, eagerly looking forward to a happy occasion – a celebration owing to new addition in the family. New generation… new beginning, new start for the family and the dearest house! I am sure my parents and brother (Kumar Vikram Bhawani Singh) have great plans in store.

As for me, I yearn to once again embrace those ancient pillars and find peace. I hope that someday, I take my kids to meet the wise old man so that they know those stories – of endurance, royalty, integrity, dignity, love, inclusiveness and spirituality – which were once whispered to us.

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Small Thing#3 – Memories

I was on a cleaning spree, ruthlessly discarding whatever stuff had not been used since the past six months. I had a huge pile of things around me which others would have found useful. But a useless little plastic bag made me stop. 

Printed on it was the name of my beloved home town and my country (India)….thousands and thousands of miles from here! I tried to put it away but just couldn’t. Finally, I folded it neatly and put it safely in a drawer. 

Why, I still ask myself? Have you felt like this…lately?

Image: Google

Yesterday Once More

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Yesterday, my older one ran to me and asked to inhale the perfume his father had put on him. I smiled and told him he smelt great. He does this every time but yesterday it made me think. Would he come running to me like this always? Would he reach out for my hand whenever we go out? I think not, naturally. But then how will the transformation take place? I want to remember the day and time when he will let go of me and my opinions? Would this happen on a particular day or gradually? It is entirely expected that soon he will find it silly and outgrow it and move on. But I want to watch it consciously and make a note of it. Just like that!

I am sure I will stay on and wait for his every little acknowledgement just like my parents stayed and I moved on. I still wonder how the transformation took place in me and how much I left behind and simply forgot about it.

We just outgrow and let go of so many little things. We don’t remember the last time, date, moment when that particular ritual ceased to exist. We just abandon it, find a replacement, move on or just forget about it.

There are so many beautiful and mundane happenings from my wonder years that I want to relive one last time…but those days have gone, new routine has taken it’s place. In the years to come, I will miss my present too. We have a habit of taking our present for granted. I took it for granted while growing up. I have learnt from experience that we should not let go of our present without living it to the fullest.

I may not be able to go back and grab those moments once again but at least I can recount it, talk about it and list it…just to experience it indirectly, while I write. And to smile fondly, sincerely and simply. Here are some cherished moments straight from the innocent days when the world was a little more brighter, clearer and beautiful.

  • My father’s fictional stories of adventures in Africa on cold winter nights while eating ground nuts.
  • My mother’s laughter and mock fights with father and our intervention to settle the quarrel.
  • My grandmother’s ringing laughter that continued for minutes.
  • My late maternal grandmother’s amazing delicacies which included a variety of pickles and jams.
  • The laughter and jokes cracked by uncles and aunts in every family get together.
  • Attending marriages and vying with other kids to be the first one to peep at the veiled bride’s crimson face.
  • The sound of the bangles of our old bangles seller.
  • The comforting presence of our staff.
  • Our old two in one tape recorder and shutter TV.
  • Guava trees – my refuge from unpleasant situations.
  • Berry tree – the place where we kids learnt to weave dreams.
  • Our games – I spy, Fire in the Mountain, I want, basket ball, flying disc or just chasing games.
  • Wearing stitched dresses by the local tailor and feeling like a queen.
  • Teasing siblings until they cried.
  • Dreaming of Mickey Mouse.
  • Imagining seeing something supernatural and making up stories.
  • Screaming and overreacting at the mention of ghosts, murkatwa (the beheading killer) and witches.
  • The little old stores and their store owners in our small town.
  • The unveiling of the statue of Goddess Durga during Durga puja.
  • Lighting of earthen lamps throughout our house in Deepawali and the impatience to burn crackers.
  • Playing Holi with ink from our fountain pens.
  • Banging and shouting on the last day of every school session and before holidays.
  • Admiring the beauty queens from magazines.
  • Visits to our village where age old traditions still exist.
  • Praying for restoring of current after power cuts while watching Sunday movies on national television.
  • Staging dramas and dances for the family.
  • Little fights and outbursts but clean hearts.
  • Confiding in older sister about everything.
  • Nodding and sleeping in the school bus.
  • Jumping up and down in mud during and after rainfall.
  • Toppling down from stack of hay every harvest season.
  • Cleaning VCR head in between movies.
  • The sound of the bell of the ground nut seller, ice candy and cotton candy man.
  • The fragrance of mango flowers in the house.
  • The laid back existence without any urgency to complete a task.
  • The yearly fair in our compound and the rustic crowd.
  • The myriad colours of Chath festival.
  • Picnics at Betla National Forest and near Kechki River.
  • These are just a few of those memories. (The picture is of Betla National Forest). I would love to know about yours too, please do not forget to share. Come on, let’s live yesterday once more…